'He got a fresh start, something I can't have': Why a rape victim wants to change UCAS policy

ITV News' Scotland Reporter Louise Scott reports on rape victim Ellie Wilson, who is battling to change the university admission process after her abuser was allowed to enrolled in a course just one-hour drive away.

Ellie Wilson and Fiona Drouet's paths crossed due to the devastation of domestic abuse. 

Their experiences have led to them campaigning for change, particularly around the university admission system.

Ellie Wilson was a student at the University of Glasgow in 2017, winning awards as an athlete while studying politics. 

But a new relationship quickly spiralled out of her control.

Ellie said: "It didn't take very long for abuse to become a key feature of our relationship. It was sexual, it was physical, and it was emotional. And it carried on for quite a long period of time. Actually, in January 2019 as a result of that abuse, I attempted take my own life."In 2019, Ellie secretly recorded herself confronting her abuser.

In the recording, Ellie asks: “Do you not get how awful it makes me feel when you say ‘I haven’t raped you’ when you have?” 

The male replies: “Ellie, we have already established that I have. The people that I need to believe me, believe me.”

Ellie took this recording to Police Scotland, resulting in her abuser being charged and suspended from Glasgow University - but while awaiting trial he was able to enrol at Edinburgh University. 

Ellie said: "I just felt like it was the biggest injustice because I was struggling so much, I had this trial hanging over me and it was terrifying.

"And he was able to start a whole new life, he got a fresh start. He got something that I couldn't have.

"But then also, there was just this huge fear of him being so nearby.

"Often I would see men that looked like him in the street, and I would be convinced I'd seen him. I would freeze burst into tears at random moments. I was just consumed by absolute terror, to be honest."

Ellie Wilson was an award-winning athlete while she studied politics at Glasgow University in 2017. Credit: Ellie Wilson

In court he was found guilty of rape and sentenced to five years imprisonment.The University of Edinburgh declined our request for an interview and instead sent a statement.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and we are always working to ensure the University is a safe place to study and work. We do not tolerate sexual violence within our community and we investigate all reports made to us.

"In accordance with guidance from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), our admissions process does not require applicants to disclose any criminal convictions or ongoing investigations at the point of application, unless their chosen degree is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 or requires membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme."

University and College applicants previously had to declare this information, but UCAS changed their rules in 2018 citing GDPR.

They also declined our interview request, but they did meet Ellie.

Clare Marchant, CEO at UCAS: “We are enormously grateful to Ellie for her time and her willingness to share her thoughts, which we listened to extremely carefully. We made a commitment to look in detail at the issues she highlighted and to continue to discuss the important points raised, with Ellie and other relevant bodies in the sector. “

Emily Drouet took her own life aged 18-years-old after being in an abusive relationship. Credit: Fiona Drouet

Fiona Drouet is also campaigning for this change. 

Her 18-year-old daughter Emily took her own life while at Aberdeen University.

The family found out that she’d been in an abusive relationship with a fellow student.

Fiona Drouet said: "The first we knew that something was drastically wrong, was when the police knocked on our door on the 17th of March in 2016 and told us that Emily was gone."

The man later plead guilty to three charges of abusive behaviour, and received a community payback order. But he had already transferred to a university in Oxford.

Fiona Drouet said: "You're really fearful for other people. Is what Emily went through - losing her life - is that not enough?

"How many lessons? How many devastated lives does it take before we make these responsible decisions?"

Ellie Wilson and Fiona Drouet have joined forces to fight against university admission policy for abusers Credit: ITV News

Fiona has since set up Emily's Test, a charity working to improve gender-based violence prevention, intervention and support in higher education. Fiona is hoping to soon expand the work to England.

The Scottish government's Minister for Higher Education, Jamie Hepburn has spoken with both Ellie and Fiona.

He says he is determined to make improvements going forward and has been in dialogue with UCAS.

In the meantime, a Scottish government taskforce is exploring how data can be shared  amongst institutions in a more consistent manner.

Both Fiona and Ellie want to see change from institutions right across the UK, to ensure the challenges around data sharing aren't being prioritised over the potential risk to women’s safety.

If you are, or think you might be, in an abusive relationship contact Women's Aid, you can call or email for free help and advice.

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